Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

As Lebanon bleeds: a savage and unwinnable gambit

By Pierre Tristam - posted Monday, 17 July 2006

The irony is that Israel’s conditions for a cease-fire are nothing if not reasonable: return the two Israeli soldiers; quit the rocket attacks on Northern Israel; disarm Hezbollah.

Any Lebanese worth his cedars would gladly set out those conditions himself, especially in light of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s cowardly mongering for “open war” at Lebanon’s expense. But in the meantime, this? A nation taken hostage? Thirty civilians a day slaughtered in the bombing? An economy finally on its feet, ruined all over again? A blockade?

This isn’t just a matter of disproportion. It’s sheer madness, the result of an Israeli prime minister with something of a Kennedyesque inferiority complex (Lebanon as a Bay of Pigs, but without the benefit of invasion interruptus) enabled and just about applauded by an American president who wouldn’t know the difference between a self-defensive war and crimes against humanity if Saint Augustin shouted it in his ears, deafened as they’ve been by his predilection for shock and awe.


If Ehud Olmert intends what he says - that the military assault and blockade will end when Hezbollah is disarmed - then this is a repeat of 1982, intended then to end only when the PLO was thrown out of Lebanon.

What did that achieve? The creation of Hezbollah and the end of Israel as a nation merely defending itself: From then on it played the untenable pre-emption card, a card it couldn’t hold. It first withdrew to its “buffer” zone in south Lebanon, then withdrew altogether in 2000, wracked from insupportable pressures abroad and at home that thinly spread occupations couldn’t abide. Withdrawal from Gaza was the inevitable result of the same pressures.

The question always was this: when Palestinians and Hezbollah would continue to provoke (and act against their own interests) instead of negotiate, would Israel take the bait or wait them out? The bait it would be. It isn’t just Hamas and Hezbollah who have a knack for self-destruction.

Meanwhile the Thomas Friedman of Beirut - the Daily Star’s Michael Young - writes an op-ed for The Times all but calling for war on Syria, if not Iran. His analysis isn’t wrong, half-way down his column’s Tigris: one line Hezbollah crossed, Young writes, “was its evident co-ordination of strategy with Hamas; this went well beyond its stated aim of simply defending Lebanon and left Israel feeling it was fighting a war on two fronts.”

Another line “was domestic. By unilaterally taking Lebanon into a conflict with Israel, Hezbollah sought to stage a coup d’état against the anti-Syrian parliamentary and government majority, which opposes the militant group’s adventurism.” Fine. So Hezbollah is running its rogue state-within-a-state in South Lebanon. And Syria and Iran play Hezbollah like they’ve played any vigilante militia to their advantage. Better spill Lebanese blood than their own.

What’s Young’s solution? Lebanon certainly has nothing to do with it. “It would be far smarter for Israel, and America, to profit from Hezbollah’s having perhaps overplayed its hand.” In other words, enforce the UN Security Council resolution calling for Hezbollah’s disarmament.


How he proposes to get that done, not even Young knows, considering President Bush’s squarely war-abetting stance on Israel’s side, rather than on the side of a just solution the United States could perhaps pressure towards. The Israeli attack and Bush’s endorsement have all but ensured that the Hezbollah supermyth as a “resistance” movement is perversely legitimised, in the same way that Iran’s Mullahs have used the American invasion and occupation of Iraq to justify the re-radicalisation of Iranian politics towards the West.

True, in so far as Hezbollah is concerned, the fuse is lit in Damascus and in Teheran, and it stretches conveniently far from either, into Lebanon’s heartland, where any blow-up keeps its collateral damage to Lebanese blood. But it doesn’t stop in Teheran and Damascus. The radicalisation of the Mideast, its perpetual fall-back into this default compulsion for dead-ended savagery in the name of “self-defense”, takes its ultimate source from the Bush administration’s bomb-first, talk-never attitude that it launched in Iraq and finds itself defending to this day.

There’s an unappetising parallel here between Hezbollah and America’s neo-cons. Both were on the outs. Hezbollah’s regressive ideology, like Hamas’s, like al-Qaida’s, cannot exist without war. But Hezbollah’s ideology was rotting in South Lebanon. It had lost its purpose, Israel having retreated in all but one miserly contested stretch of real estate known as the Shebaa Farm.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All

First published in Pierre Tristam/Candide’s Notebooks on July 14, 2006.

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

145 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Pierre Tristam is a News-Journal editorial writer and editor of Candide's Notebooks. Reach him at

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Pierre Tristam

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of Pierre Tristam
Article Tools
Comment 145 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy